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“It makes me absolutely sick to my stomach that people would point at Dave Reichert, after 33 years in the King County Sheriff’s Office, almost losing my life,” he told the paper last August. “To have someone even ask that question of me, it’s offensive, very offensive.”
Washington State Republican Party Chairwoman Diane Tebelius, who vied with Reichert for the Republican nomination two years ago, said any allegations that Reichert was a bad sheriff are ridiculous.
“Instead of trying to dish up dirty things about someone, why don’t they try to find reasons to vote for Darcy Burner?” Tebelius asked, referring to Reichert’s Democratic challenger. “There is none. As long as there is none, Dave Reichert is going to do just fine.”
State Sen. Luke Esser, who also lost to Reichert in the Republican primary in the previous cycle, said using the sheriff’s department’s woes as campaign fodder will not work.
“More people call him Sheriff Reichert than Congressman Reichert,” Esser said. “In people’s minds he’s still, and always will be, the sheriff. It’s a lifetime title for him.”
Stuart Elway, an independent Seattle-based pollster, said he does not see the issue gaining steam.
“I don’t have a sense that it’s going to have much of an impact one way or another,” Elway said. “It seems the issue is fading.”
Furthermore, Elway said the details are too murky and complicated.
“It looks like it would have potential for an opponent, but it’s one of those things that it’s a hard case to make,” Elway said. “Administration of the office — it’s not the kind of thing that sets people on fire.”
A national Democratic operative strongly disagreed.
“He’s looking at front-page investigative pieces in his district saying he ran a corrupt office and ignored his oversight duties,” the source, who did not want to be named, said. “In an election year that is largely about credibility and honest leadership, these are two huge vulnerabilities.”
In one article, an FBI agent questioned the management of the sheriff’s office.
“What’s this group doing down there?” the agent was quoted as asking. “Who’s in charge? “Where’s the accountability?”
Last December the paper wrote: “A few weeks before that, two sheriff’s commanders also recommended [a deputy] be fired for breaking department rules. Instead, Reichert — then in the midst of a hot Congressional campaign — allowed [the officer] to quietly slip into retirement about two weeks later, records show.”
Feit said the allegations could hurt Reichert’s re-election.
“He won because he was the broad-shouldered sheriff, protector of the public, and this would turn that strength into a liability,” he said.
But it remains to be seen if such a strategy would work, Feit said.
“Will it have traction?” he asked. “I don’t know.”
For now Reichert’s campaign spokeswoman said the allegations are the furthest thing from the Congressman’s mind.
“We are not focused on comments from outside sources or from opponents,” said the spokeswoman, Carol Beaudu. “We are totally 100 percent focused on Dave’s re-election effort. Our fundraising is strong, our grass-roots effort is strong ... Dave is focused on his job as Congressman and representing the 8th district.”